One of the indelible early memories Mark Anderson cherishes is when he would rush home at noon from Garfield Elementary School in Willmar to have lunch with his mom. For Anderson, the youngest of six children, it was one of the few times he got to spend alone with his mother.
The two have always been close. Before Anderson – who is best known in these parts by the air name Mark Anthony – settled in Douglas County, he worked at broadcast stations in several markets in the Midwest. During an early stop in Joplin, Missouri, back in the days of long distance charges, his daily calls home led to monthly phone bills that surpassed the $300 mark.
He soon realized it would be cheaper to move back to Minnesota.
Recent circumstances have Anderson thinking about those moments. For the past five years, the KXRA program director has resumed that pattern of rushing to see his mom over the noon hour, only now it has been from his on-air radio duties to Nelson Gables, where Bonnie Anderson has been in failing health.
“You realize the preciousness of time when you have a loved one on hospice and you know their time is limited,” the son said last week. Throughout these last years, he’s known that any day could be their last. "I cherish each and every lunch hour."
Those meals together have given them plenty of time to reminisce about their lives, and share memories of when Bonnie and Clifford met in 1944 while he was on leave from the Navy. He signed on after Pearl Harbor and soon was in the South Pacific on a PT boat, while Bonnie was one of so many women who worked in factories and shipyards while the men went off to war, inspecting ammunition at a factory in Minneapolis.
Work has always been a big part of her youngest son’s life – he also anchors KOOL-TV’s newscasts, and the meteorologist even does weather forecasts for the Echo Press – and those elementary-school lunch hours were a great influence in that regard, too. Because the other big attraction for him was the popular Twin Cities kids TV show, “Lunch with Casey.”
“My dad always thought us kids watched too much TV,” said Anderson, who didn’t miss a chance to remind his dad that all that tube time was only research for his future profession.
The broadcaster who played Casey Jones was Roger Awsumb. “He was one of those guys who made me get into television,” said Anderson, who has led a life full of wonderful coincidences. Consider that Awsumb retired to the Brainerd area, where the tables were turned and he used to watch Mark Anthony doing the weather on KSAX-TV.
Like that one? Here’s another. As a youth they had early release from school on Tuesdays, when Anderson’s mother used to drive him and a girl named Tracey to the United Methodist Church. He would sneak glances in the rear-view mirror at that attractive girl who, he jokes, has now moved up to the front seat. They were married 16 years ago in Las Vegas on Feb. 29, which means on Saturday, Leap Day, they will celebrate their “fourth” anniversary.
When they were back in Willmar for the church’s 125th anniversary celebration, they found a picture of the Wesley Choristers where Mark and Tracey were standing next to each other. “God has connected us all these years,” he said. “It was just our destiny.”
Tracey’s sister is also married to Mark’s brother. Anderson said that looking back to his relatives in Sweden, there were three brothers married to three sisters. “My dad always said we came to it naturally.”
Then there’s this nugget: At the church’s 100th anniversary, Tracey found a book that listed when people joined the church. There, on the same date in November of 1953, were each set of their parents’ names.
The Andersons also had a connection with Alexandria, as Mark recalls trips here as a kid. If it wasn’t for all of his mom’s connections in Willmar, he said that his parents would have moved here when his dad retired from the highway department.
When Clifford had a stroke in 2015, they finally did make that move, and Anderson was able to resume those special lunches with his dad, who died in 2017, and his mom.
Bonnie Anderson died just after 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25 as her youngest was ending the daily radio show he hosts. When he joined sisters Debbie and Cathy at Nelson Gables, music was streaming from the activity room.
“They had the doors open and that beautiful music was resonating down the halls. It was like the heavens were opening for my mom with that gorgeous music,” Anderson said. “They didn’t know my mom was passing just down the hall. It was an amazing experience.”
Suddenly he has a void in his life, not only at noon but at the other times he would visit his mom. It’s something that has occurred to Anderson, too. He has talked it over with Tracey, who works at New Life Christian Church, and is going to start spending the noon hour with her at the church.
“We’ll start a new tradition,” he said.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.